A vacation in Ocean City usually involves a fair bit of indulgence and there’s no doubt that visitors to this seashore destination certainly leave their proverbial “carbon footprint” on the landscape. Just ask locals and they’ll tell you that things have indeed changed in the last several decades. The beach certainly suffers from the impact of tourism as do other natural habitats, including nearby Assateague Island.
That’s why it’s important to do your best to reduce your impact on the beach environment. And while you’re at it, in the name of conservation, why not engage in some activities that fall into the realm of “eco-tourism” while you’re visiting Ocean City, Maryland? Truly, there are some wonderful natural areas near Ocean City that are worth exploring and there are a number of different ways to accomplish that exploration.
The waters around nearby Assateague Island are a wonderful place to go kayaking while learning a little bit about that unique environment. Outfitters like SuperFun Eco Tours (410-656-WILD) offer fun and educational kayaking along the shores of Assateague. Because they paddle in shallow water (2-3 feet deep), their tours are suitable for anyone over age 5 and participants don’t even need to know how to swim. Kayaking provides an opportunity to safely view the wild horses on the island as well as other wildlife and the guides know everything there is to know about the habitat.
Also check out Ayers Creek Adventures, which leads tours on Maryland’s Coastal Bays via kayak or canoe. Explore the marshes and wetlands or even take a photography tour with this outfitter. You’re sure to get some great shots! (888-602-6288)
There are all sorts of wonderful places to go bird watching in and around Ocean City, and you really don’t have to go very far. For example, the Ocean City Inlet – where the ocean meets the Sinepuxet Bay – is a wonderful place to observe a host of shore birds. Gulls, terns, loons…you name it, you’ll see them there at one time of the year or another.
Assateague Island, of course, is also an amazing place to go birdwatching. There are 300 species of resident and migratory birds there and avid birders will love trying to identify them all. In summer, for example, birds spotted in abundance include red-winged blackbirds, northern bobwhites, northern cardinals, fish crows, short-billed dowitchers, great and snowy egrets, and dozens of others. In other seasons, you’ll see many others. As a matter of fact, bird watching on Assateague in the off-season is delightful because crowds are less and birds aren’t frightened away.
If you’d like to do more than hiking up and down the boardwalk, you’ll find that Assateague is also a wonderful place to explore on foot. There are a variety of both paved and unpaved trails at Assateague, but the three half-mile nature trails that put you in touch with the different eco-systems in the park are the most popular and great for eco-tourists. These include marsh, forest, and dunes trails. (Note: these are short but beach hiking is tough, which means they seem longer than they are!)
You can also find other places to hike that aren’t paved or don’t have boardwalks, if you’re a bit more adventurous. Just be sure to stay away from the horses and abide by the signs that ask you to keep off of certain terrain.